Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The king's magical book (repost for Purim)

In honor of Purim this weekend, I'm re-posting some articles I wrote in past years.

The king's magical book

In Megilat Esther, the book of Esther containing the Purim story, we read in the beginning of chapter 6 that the king couldn't sleep and asked that his book of records of his life be brought to him. The usual translation is that he asked that it be read to him, but the Hebrew can be read that the book "should be made to be read to him." The Talmud (Megila 15b) says that the book opened magically to the story of Mordechai, fitting the literal reading of the Hebrew very well.

What is the Talmud trying to tell us?

I think that we can answer the question by analogy to the Harry Potter series. Throughout the series we hear magical explanations of things that seem like circumstance to non-magical people. For example, a number of magical places (such as the Qwidditch Cup stadium, and the Hogwarts castle) are enchanted such that any non-magical people that get close to them will all of a sudden remember something that they had to do in another place. Similarly, non-magical people don't see or know about Dementors, but they feel sad all of a sudden whenever in one's presence.

These sorts of details in the Harry Potter books make them fun to read, since they make us think of magical explanations of circumstances like remembering something we have to do or all of a sudden feeling sad.

The Talmud above might be teaching us that things that happen by circumstance, such as opening a book to a page ramdomly, are in fact caused by G-d to happen in a way that will fit a plan that He has for the world. Circumstance is not fitting a magical enchantment, but in a similarly magical way is fitting a Divine plan. This makes everyday events as magical as they are in Harry Potter, but the magic is Divine, not created by wizards.

The entire Purim story is in fact teaching that lesson. G-d's name doesn't appear anywhere in the book of Esther, but we know and believe that circumstances are being orchestrated by G-d to bring about the results that He wants. Even the name "Esther" reflects this, being from the same Hebrew root as "hester," meaning hidden. G-d's hand in events might be hidden, but It's there nonetheless. It doesn't take a wizard to see the magic, but it requires that we be attuned to how G-d is shaping the events in the world to bring out His plans.

I want to wish everybody a good Shabbat and a Happy Purim!


zoe sugg in harry potter said...

Harry Potter is my favorite story. When I get a time, I read the book. Thanks for share the post about Harry Potter.

Unknown said...

Interesting post. I have been wondering about this issue,so thanks for posting.
who is zoe sugg